Dr. Charles H. Townes

Vote Explanation for H.R. 3293 — Scientific Research in the National Interest Act

In 1915 Charles H. Townes, a Ph. D. and professor, began working on a project that would allow him to generate and target a stream of microwaves. His Columbia University colleagues and many in the scientific community thought the project and idea ridiculous. Thankfully, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Navy had greater foresight and this “ridiculous” project led to the creation of the first laser. This is the kind of scientific research that we need to fund. When first proposed scientific research might not serve a clear purpose beyond advancing basic scientific knowledge, but today no one doubts the value of the NSF grant Townes received.

Earlier this week, I voted against H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, which passed the House 236-178. This bill not only requires NSF to explain the purpose of each grant (something they are already doing voluntarily), but also requires that they justify why each grant is in the “national interest.” As someone with a science background, I know this won’t work. Scientists don’t always know the end result of their research, but without broader research grants, scientists like Charles Townes may never have succeeded. And without lasers we wouldn’t have the Internet, computer hard drives, or satellite broadcasting. I support scientific research because I believe that furthering the progress of science and better understanding the world we live in is in our national interest.

Read more about Charles Townes research and other interesting scientific discoveries here.